Westbound (Love Travels West, Book 1)

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Chapter 15. Settling In.

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.—Robert Frost

Chapter 15.

Settling In.

   "You really don't have to go out of your way," Dannie protested when Sophie stated her parents were going to buy her some new dresses

   "It's not going out of our way. My folks were planning on going to town this week anyway. Momma needs to visit her aunt who lives in Hopewing. Thank God she's not tagglin' me along. I love going to the town, but I can't stand my great aunt Penelope Clington."

   "But still, you are spending money on me."

   "Dannie, Dannie, Dannie, you can't go livin' the rest of your life with only two dresses!" Sophie firmly stated. "Don't worry, its not like Daddy will be any poorer from purchasing some clothes for you. Lord knows I am not one to boast, but Daddy has more cattle than most folks here, and they bring in good money, so I don't want to hear another word about us 'wasting finances'. Is that clear?"

   Dannie  shrugged her shoulders, she was of course very glad with the prospect new clothes, but felt rather self conscious about taking them. It felt a little like charity.

   "How do you like your new bed?" Sophie pointed to the wooden bed standing in one corner of the room. "Mack was very particular about getting it all right."

   "It is very nice," Dannie answered. "Mack is a very kind boy. I could tell this from the moment I met him."

   "It's a pity he ain't the sharpest tool in the shed." Sophie lowered her voice a little and Dannie fought to keep a straight face.

   "I must admit admit, he isn't very bright, but he has gifted hands. Everyone here praises his talent at carpentry. I believe it was your brother who told me he made a lot of the furniture in the house."

   "He's also got a very great weakness for women," Sophie teased. "So I'd be careful."

   "Don't worry, I'm not planning on giving the boy any false hopes. He's barely seventeen, hardly old enough to be thinking seriously of girls."

   "Yeah, you try tellin' him that." 

    The two girls burst out giggling.

   "Sophie, I have been meaning to ask, when I first arrived here you mentioned that Caleb roomed with Ed. I assumed Ed was your brother, but the only Edward around here is Edward Rellwar, Mack's father."

   Sophie's face fell. "Ed is my older brother. He turned out bad and we don't communicate with him. Haven't had any word in I don't know how long."

   "Oh, I'm sorry." There was a sad pause and Dannie sought to change the subject. "Come, let's go play the piano."

   "Let's better go ridin'. I want to check on the herd."

   "How can you want to go riding in that heat?"

   "Ah, the herd is worth it," Sophie protested. "I'll show those silly cowboys I'm as good as any man!"

   Dannie bit her lip to keep from smiling. Sophie was always trying to get the cowboys to let her ride with them, but they never seemed very keen on the idea. It reminded Dannie of how a little child would try to get his older siblings to allow him into their game, and the older ones would try to get rid of the bothersome youngster. The cowboys working for Mr. Martin always seemed to have some sort of reason why Sophie should not go riding with them, and they did all in their power to avoid her.

   "Maybe we had better play the piano," Dannie suggested.

   "You know I'm terrible at playin' that thing."

   "All the more reason to practice. We'll find a nice, simple duet and work on it till you master it."

   "How did you learn to play the piano so well?"

   "Mamma made me play every single day, she never let me get away without practicing, not even on Sundays."

   "Why do you say Mamma? That's a rather strange way of callin' your mother."

   "It's a French way," Dannie explained as they sat down by the piano. "I was taught to say it like that and now I can't get out of the habit. Speaking for foreign languages, I've noticed that you speak Spanish very well."

   "That is thanks to Carolina. She was mine and Caleb's nurse and she spoke a lot of Spanish to us. It was actually very helpful, seeing we have a couple of Mexican workers who aren't so good at English. That is to say it's helpful to Caleb, I don't do much business with them. Do you speak Spanish?"

   "Unfortunately not," Dannie said, rummaging through the notes that lay by the piano. "Only French and Italian."

   "Woah, you know both French and Italian?" Sophie's eyes got wide.

   "Yes, and it was a long story why, not that it did me much good in the long run and not like I'll need either of the languages here, but Mamma wanted me to learn them so I did. Here, this is the duet I was looking for, it's very simple and we shall go through it slowly."

***

   Two weeks had passed since Dannie had arrived at the Circle 4 and she had not had a word from Jake in all this time. Though of course disappointing, Dannie tried to brush it aside. She was happy in her new home and the Martin family was kind to her, Mr. Martin in particular was very attentive. Sophie and Dannie had already gotten very attached to each other, despite their very different personalities. Sophie's wild nature often clashed with Dannie's more placid one. Dannie could understand why Mrs. Martin had been worried for her daughter, there really was a little too much boy in Sophie.

   Dannie set about to try and teach Sophie to be more of a lady, while in turn, Sophie tried to teach Dannie how to be more of a rancher. Dannie didn't exactly possess Sophie's energy, nor her desire to always be out with the cowboys. Often there would be a battle of wills of what to do, play the piano and sew, or ride out to the herd. Today Dannie had decided to pass on a riding excursion, and went to visit one of the dogs who had had a litter of puppies. Mack was feeding them when she came over.

   "Hey, Miss Danielle, come to look at the puppies?" he asked, taking off his hat when he saw her.

   "Yes, they are growing so fast, I can't believe they've already opened their eyes, just a few more days and they'll be running around, and no doubt getting into trouble." Dannie reached her hand into the pen and ran it through the fur of one of the pups. "They really are the sweetest little things."

   "Ever had a dog of your own, Miss Danielle?"

   "No." Dannie shook her head. "My father was allergic to dog fur, so we never kept a dog."

   "Would ya like to have one?" Mack suddenly asked.

   Dannie turned to face him. "Are you sure I can?"

   "Sure, why not?"

   "Well, don't they belong to Mr. Martin?"

   "He don't need a whole litter. Come on, I'm sure you'd love to have a pup of your very own. He was gonna to get rid of most of them anyway, so there."

   "If you think no one will mind..."

   "Trust me, Miss Danielle, no one will mind."

   "That doesn't mean anything coming from you," Dannie pointed out with a giggle.

   "Awww, come on, Miss Danielle, take my word for it. Which one do you want?"

   "I'm not sure; I don't know anything about dogs."

   Mack scanned the puppies. "If you were to ask me, I'd say take this one." He lifted one of the pups. "He's got a good color and he's the most active of the litter. He'll make a good dog with time. Here, take him, I'm in charge of the dogs and I say he's yours."

   "Thank you, Mack." Dannie smiled, reaching out and taking a hold of the puppy. It was a tiny , with a shiny, chocolate coat, clumsy paws, large brown eyes, and small, floppy ears. Dannie pressed him to her chest and he snuggled up next to her.

   "You're gonna have to name him." Mack said, scratching the puppy behind the ear.

   "I know that much."

   "Mack!" Christopher Martin's voice suddenly sounded out. "Stop being sweet with Dannie and go about your chores."

   "Yeah, Boss," Mack grumbled and shuffled out.

   "Funny how men will bend backward to try and get a girl to notice them," Mr. Martin said with a chuckle. "Especially out here where woman are scarce." .

   "He gave me a puppy," Dannie sheepishly said, "I hope it is alright."

   "Go ahead, keep him. There are plenty more in the litter, not like I need all six of them." Mr. Martin reassured. "So tell me, how are you getting along at the Circle 4?"

   "I'm getting along very well, thank you," Dannie smiled as she played with the pup in her arms "You have been very kind to me, and I quite in your debt."

   "Nonsense, we were more than happy to help out. It was actually rather nice to know that my relatives back in England still remembered I existed. I had long lost all contact with them, though the fault is of course entirely mine. Got all caught up in my own little world to remember about family across the big water." There was a tint of remorse in Mr. Martin's voice. "Tell me, what do you plan to name the pup?" He turned his attention back to the canine. "That one is the choice of the litter, he's very active and he's got a great coat."

   "If you want, I can take another one."

  "Absolutely not! You keep that one, just give him a proper name. When I gave Sophie a puppy two years back, she called him Balaclava. Dug up the word in some random book and decided it would make a great name. Not that I mind, but having a dog named after a city in Turkey is mighty strange if you ask me. She's a good girl, my Sophie, but she can be rather peculiar at times."

   Dannie laughed at these words. Mr. Martin did have a point. Turning her attention back to the pup, she looked into his eyes. "I'll name him Roy," Dannie said in a whisper. The little canine let out a bark and licked her nose.

   "Roy is a right good name," Mr. Martin approved. "It's short, easy to pronounce, and it's well, decent, if you follow me."

   "I think I do." Dannie smiled. "Roy it is then."

   "Grace tells me you asked her to teach you how to cook."

   "I did," Dannie's face turned a little red, "I can play the piano and read Latin, but I don't know any practical skills and I felt I should remedy this." Dannie of course wouldn't tell anyone, but the instance when Jake had asked her if she could cook and she had had to answer no was still fresh in her mind. She had determined to learn to cook if only to save face when asked that question again.

   "Mr. Martin," Mack's voice sounded out again. "Calvin Jennson here to see you."

   Dannie and Mr. Martin both looked up to see Mack and another man standing next to him. He was neatly dressed in a brown tailored suit, a black hat on his head, and shiny boots with spurs that glistened in the sun.

   "Ah, young master Jennson," Mr. Martin reached out and shook his hand. "I was expecting you. Tell me, how's business at the bank?"

   "Couldn't get any slower," Cal Jennson replied. "Pa says things will be slow for a while, but as Hopewing continues to grow, so will business." Cal's eyes swept over to where Dannie was still sitting. She had turned from them and was busy cuddling the pup. Mr. Martin's followed Cal's gaze.

   "Ah yes, Cal, this is Danielle Preston, the daughter of my cousin. Danielle, Calvin Jennson, his father owns the bank at Hopewing."

   Cal's removed his hat and he nodded towards Dannie, not quite able to hide the look of admiration, and one could hardly blame him. Sitting by the kennel, cuddling the puppy in her arms with the sun's light illuminating her frame, Dannie looked very attractive. Being of course very critical of her appearance, Dannie was unaware of the endearing picture she created. As it was, she remained completely oblivious to Cal's adoring gaze as she returned the pup to his brothers and sisters and stood up.

   "A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Jennson," she said with a smile. Cal was of course taken back with her accent, but didn't show it.

   "I hope you will not think me presumptuous, Miss Preston, but you come from Northern England, do you not?"

   Dannie's smile became even wider. "Mr. Jennson, I am impressed. You are the first person who has not asked me if I was from London."

   Cal and Mr. Martin both laughed at this. 

"My uncle sent me to study abroad," Cal explained. "I have been to London, and while there I met with a gentleman from the north of the country. His accent was quite similar to yours. Are you here to stay?"

   "I am indeed," Dannie's smile became a little sad. "The death of my parents brought me from England to Mr. Martin, for he is my closest living relative. He has been kind enough to take me in."

   "My condolences, Miss Preston," Cal's voice turned soft. "Have you visited Hopewing yet?"

   "I have only arrived two weeks ago, and have been busy getting adjusted. I fear I have not had the time to travel to town."

   "When you do, I shall be very happy to show you the bank my father runs."

   "That is very kind of you, Mr. Jennson."

   "And you must come to the Harvest Dance."

   "Oh, I don't know," Dannie looked down. "I don't think I know how to dance the way you do here."

   "Miss Martin can fix that," Cal chuckled. "She is very fond of dancing. The dance is held in September, that is one and a half months away. Trust me, it is not something you want to miss out on."

    "If you say so, Mr. Jennson," Dannie laughed. "And it is very thoughtful of you to invite me."   

   "Very thoughtful indeed," Mr. Martin cut in, "now, Cal, I think you have business with me."

   "I do sir," Cal reluctantly agreed. "It was nice meeting you, Miss Preston."

   "And you, Mr. Jennson," Dannie gave a slight curtsy. She turned back to the dogs as Mr. Martin led Cal to the house. She didn't notice, but the youth glanced over his shoulder at least three times to catch another glimpse of her.

***

   "Heard you met Cal Jennson yesterday." Sophie teased the following day as the two girls got ready to go out riding.

   "I did. He was very polite and pleasant."

   "His daddy runs the bank at Hopewing. Cal was brought up by his uncle back east and only recently came out here to be with his father. He's one of those well bred type of men trying so hard to fit in with the wild ways of Arizona Territory."

   "Well, that makes two of us," Dannie pointed out.

   "Maybe that's why he was so taken with you," Sophie laughed. "I heard Daddy telling Momma he couldn't take his eyes off of you."

   "Nonsense!" Dannie blushed from these words.

   "He's a fine fella, for all his city ways," Sophie reassured. "He's quite good when it comes to banking, Obadiah Jennson relies heavily on him. But I think he's actually a lawyer by profession."

   "A lawyer?" Dannie frowned.

   "Ya don't like lawyers?"

    "My former betrothed was a lawyer," Dannie explained.

   "That Paul man you told me about?"

   "Yes."

    "Seems men of that profession are attracted to you," Sophie laughed. "I wonder if Cal will decide to court you."

   "Good gracious, Sophie, we only just met. It is far to early for him to think of such things."

   "This Arizona, Dannie, with one woman for every ten men. Why, we've got a whole ranch of cowboys making sheep eyes at you. If Cal don't hurry, someone else might beat him to it."

   Dannie shook her head in bewilderment. It was very strange to have all the ranch hands and cowboys being so friendly to her. She certainly never got such attention from men in England. "I don't think I am ready to entertain the idea of marriage just yet." She confessed.

   "Awww, come on! You can't allow one bad man to ruin your happiness."

"I certainly don't plan to let him ruin my happiness, and perhaps with time I will fall in love again." Despite herself, Dannie found an image of Jake flashing in her mind, but she shook it away. "It is just that I am not quite ready yet. I have to let the heart heal before I trust it to another."

   "Don't worry, it's not like there is any rush, I am not ready to lose you just yet!" Sophie looped her arm through Dannie's

   "Have you given marriage any thought?"

   "Not really," Sophie replied carelessly. "I can't see myself as a married woman. Momma has hinted once or twice, but i can't get why the hurry? I only just turned twenty; I want to enjoy my freedom."

   "Ladies," The door to the room opened and Caleb's face appeared through the crack. "Are we going ridin' or what? Unlike the pair of you, I can't dilly daddle all day, I still have chores Pa expects me to get done."

   "Oh right, blame us!" Sophie fired at her brother. "I'll have you know we are both ready and were just headin' towards the door when you decided to burst in."

   "Sure you were."

   "Don't go being fresh, Caleb," Sophie shoved her brother as she walked through the door. "From the way you put it you would think that neither Dannie nor myself did anythin' to help out here."

   "Not as much as I do."

   "Of course, not as much as you do!"

  Dannie laughed at the sibling squabble, which Caleb and Sophie kept up till they reached the stables.

   "I'm not so good with the normal saddle," Dannie whined when she realized she wouldn't be riding side-saddle again. "Why do you keep insisting I ride like a man?"

   "Trust me, it is a lot more comfortable," Sophie stated as she mounted her horse.

   "But I'm not so good at this as it is, why make it all the more difficult?"

    Sophie laughed at Dannie's fussy behavior. "Ridin' is just like playing the piano, practice will make you perfect. Don't be so hesitant, Dannie dear, in a couple of days we'll have you ridin' as good as any cowboy."

   "Well, I don't know about that."

   "Awww, come on, don't have so little faith in yourself," Caleb protested as he helped Dannie onto the horse. "Just let the horse know that yer the boss and it will all be swell. Between Sophie and myself, we'll have you the best rider in Arizona Territory before the year is up."

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